Thursday, August 11, 2016

Ferdinand Marcos and a Hero's Burial

We knew sooner or later this question would no longer be purely hypothetical once it became clear that Rodrigo Duterte was going to be the president. Throughout his campaign, he maintained a close connection with the late dictator's son to the point that his running mate, Allan Peter Cayetano, was constantly hounded by questions on whether he was really pulling for the younger Marcos in the VP race. It seems that all systems are a go for the burial. Duterte understands that rallies are gonna be organized and he doesn't seem to have problems with people on the streets for a whole month. But as of now, Duterte is not budging on the issue.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

On Arthur Tugade's Apology Regarding NAIA

Well this is certainly a breath of fresh air. It's not as fresh as I would like. But it's fresh nonetheless.

NAIA has long been a running joke for the past few years now. It was named as the worst airport in the world by Guide to Sleeping in Airports for three years. It eventually improved. But it is still considered as one of worst by the website and even flight crews. The "Tanim Bala" issue got people riled up (link). And now, its already-oddly-designed runways, being perpendicular and all, are the ones causing problems... well one in particular.

Problems in NAIA have become the norm. And for the past administration, the problems seemed to revolve around... well... hmm... luck (link)? I kid... I kid... hehe.

But seriously though, the past administration was at a lost when it came to managing the transport sector. I was particularly irked with the then DOTC, the MMDA (link) and the leaderships stubbornness in keeping the officials in place. And as disheartening as it is for me to say, I wouldn't have blamed Tugade if he went after Honrado or Abaya. But he kind of didn't.

Transport secretary Arthur Tugade, in front of business leaders and executives last July 19, manned up and took full responsibility for the damaged runways that caused delayed and diverted flights as well as, pending investigations, damage on an Eva Air Boeing 747.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

A Quick Look: Duterte's "Change" is Upon Us

Well, here we go. As of writing, we are a few hours in under Rodrigo Duterte's presidency. Within the 6 years allotted to his rule, he will have ample chances to succeed and fail miserably. And contrary to what many in social media are saying, now is not the time to judge/praise him or otherwise predict a catastrophic future for the Philippines. What we can do as individuals though is hope that he fails in implementing policies we don't want and succeed in implementing those that we view as essential to get to where we want to be.

Leading up and right after the elections, I've written a few posts that would lead people to believe that I didn't support Duterte; I posted quite neutrally about his proclamation speech here (link), I was not happy with how he handled a question directed to him by a UPLB student (link), his friendship with Marcos is troubling to me (link) and him being an ardent supporter of the death penalty doesn't sit well with me (link). But with all the things he does that don't jive with my political ideals, there are things about him and things that he has brought up that give me hope for the next 6 years.

I can't help but admire Duterte. I don't know. Duterte is one of those people that, based on the few friends I have from Davao, got a lot done. Davao was apparently a rotting cesspool characterized by lawlessness before he came. And now, it is supposedly one of the safest cities in the Philippines. But then again, statistical sources are not conclusive about the claim. But the fact that people paint Duterte as this doer who actually got stuff done is amazing. I'm not sure if he was successful in improving Davao per se. But his constituents there certainly believe so. And that alone shows the potential he has when it comes to influencing people. And this is made evident by the balancing act he has done in appointing free-market followers in his cabinet and at same time getting Bayan Muna and other leftist groups to compromise. That right-leaning economic agenda they released in May got leftists fuming. But here we are now, just a month later, and we have militants rallying in support of him.

It is scary in a way that he may use his seemingly limitless political capital in getting what I believe to be detrimental policies done. But at least, the things that he may institute that I agree with won't have as many problems going through as they would otherwise. A good example of this is the Anti-Discrimination Bill. He has shown support for the LGBT community in the past and he has said that discrimination is one of the things that he hates the most. As of now, looking through the comments on Facebook about June's Pride Parade, it is apparent that people are not for this bill. I don't expect this bill to be a priority of his. But we have a president capable of swaying people and also seemingly willing to get it done. We supporters just need to actually organize and be heard.

Aside from the things that need more time to ripen, Duterte has already recognized certain issues that are close to my heart. Minutes into taking his oath, Duterte went ahead and called the attention of government agencies. He called for an end to redundant requirements for government permits as well as efficient service delivery in the matter. Regardless of the politics you are running, without an efficient, effective and accountable bureaucracy, it will be all for naught. Some are saying this is Duterte's version of Aquino's wang-wang bit. But it's not. Wang-wang was a political stunt aimed at making people think that the president is like them and a showcase of empathy while this is Duterte calling for better public administration.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

A Fat Commuter in the Philippines

Hi, my name is Aaron and I am fat or obese or whatever. I am 6'1'' tall and I weigh in at around 300 lbs. I am completely comfortable with my body regardless of the considerable mass and volume it may have. Sure, I do try to exercise through basketball and other things to improve my health. But my life expectancy is the only real driver for any attempt to get slim.

Unfortunately for me, my body's aesthetics always seem to be a cause for concern for others;I get teased by kids whenever I pass by streets in places I don't usually visit, my parents' friends always see me as "those two's fat son" and I'm sure looks have been thrown my way without me noticing them. But none of these things bother me. It may bother somebody else. But I see myself in too high regard to be bothered. But in the case of something like commuting, I can't help but be pissed off.

For my entire life, I've been a commuter. I know how to drive. But the gas prices and the damned toll prices from Alabang going north can really keep the car in the garage. And for my daily commute, I have to ride a bus, a jeepney and a tricycle. And of all of these, the bus has been the least discriminatory against me.

I've never experienced discrimination in a bus. Maybe it's because I always find a way to fit myself and two others on the seats on the driver's side. And the number of passenger always keeps the conductor preoccupied leaving no time to give a remark about me or any other passenger.

As for jeepneys, the barker and the driver sometimes insist I sit in front. I don't know why. But I always oblige. I always sit after another person sits next to the driver so that at least only one knee would be forced to suffer the pain of being squeezed onto the metal fabrication of the vehicle. This rarely happens. And letting it slide has always been my course of action.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Death Penalty!? What?!

From the very start of his campaign, Rodrigo Duterte made it clear that if he ever became president, he would look to reinforce the death penalty, otherwise known as capital punishment. Evidently, the people felt that death penalty is needed. It's that or they are just willing to compromise their beliefs regarding death penalty because of some of Duterte's other promises. I mean, they did vote for the guy.

Anyway, with Duterte firmly established as our leader for the next six years, I have to ask . . . death penalty?! What?!?!

Obviously, I'm not enthusiastic with the notion of my country reinforcing it. But what is death penalty?

According to Farlex's The Free Dictionary (link), death penalty is " a sentence or punishment of death by execution" or "the practice or legal sanction of allowing the imposition of punishment of death for people convicted of certain crimes". But the term "death penalty" already gives us what it is and there's no point in looking it up in our dictionaries. And yet, I doubt people know what it really is.

Death penalty has been a hotly-debated issue for decades. It has divided people and many personal reasons exist either for reinforcing it or keeping it a non-option. But of all the reasons that are given, one reason against reinforcement has always troubled me: it is a sin.

I know I've already stated I'm against death penalty. But I have always been a firm supporter for the separation of church and state. I have once posted a thought piece on this blog saying that the state has no business in meddling in the church's affairs (link). In that post, I put a premium on professionalism on the state's part basically saying that government employees cannot let their personal beliefs get in the way of whatever is good for the nation. I demand a lot from public servants. That notion still stands here. I can understand if the person in the streets uses his religion to justify keeping the death penalty out of our country. But we need to ask more from our leaders when they discuss this issue.

Now that I have shared why morality should not be used when discussing the issue, let's take a look at another thing people use to defend their stance on death penalty.

Statistics and their interpretation have been back and forth on the issue. For every research saying death penalty deters crime, there are researches saying that the methods used are flawed. From researches of Isaac Ehrlich to Naci Mocan, there have always been experts who have released papers countering their methods. Quite frankly, I don't have the technical knowledge to fully scrutinize them. But if experts don't agree on the causes and effects, regression analyses or correlations shouldn't matter in forming political stands.

Morality and statistics about the deterring ability have been the bases most thrown when people argue about the death penalty on social media. And both bases should not be used right now. We could have used morality back then when theocracy was a thing. And we can maybe use statistics in the future when further study can be done and conclusive evidence is formulated. But right now, both bases can't be used in my book.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Farewell Manny and Welcome Senator Pacquiao

I've been a fan of Manny Pacquiao since the late 90's. I remember watching this reckless kid who swung at everything that moved on Blow by Blow with my father. To me, he isn't a representation of any Filipino value. To me, he is one of the guys, along with Luisito Espinosa and to some extent Gerry PeƱalosa, who made boxing fun for me and gave me and my dad a common interest.

Boxing is boxing to me. It isn't about Filipino pride. I love Luisito Espinosa because he could knock anybody out in any given moment and not because of his nationality. The same goes for Manny. Both fighters are amazing and I'm not gonna cheapen their hard work and skills by saying their nationality had anything to do with the fame and respect they are getting.

Both fighters had their fair share of glorious battles. Espinosa had that hellish battle with Guty Espadas where he dropped multiple times only to fight back valiantly before ultimately losing a tiring battle in the 11th round. Manny had that same kind of battle with his first matches with Marquez and Morales; he suffered a broken hand against Marquez and a ghastly cut against Morales. Espinosa was cheated against Soto in their second fight and Pacquiao was cheated in his first fight against Bradley. Espinosa turned Alejandro Gonzales into a zombie in their second fight. And Manny did this to some Thai dude:

Manny Pacquiao vs Fahsan 3k Battery
make animated gifs like this at MakeaGif

That's pro boxing. It's brutal, nasty, exciting and can be a source of some sort of pride I cannot fully comprehend. But those, along with other grand adjectives, are all it is. It's a dangerous sport of brave, skillful warriors who put their bodies on the line to gain personal gratitude in the form of money, fame or whatever.

Be that as it may, I always gave Manny the benefit of the doubt. When he went into acting in the early 2000's in films with Mikey Arroyo and April Boy Regino, I instantly knew he would suck. But hey, it was his dream and there's nothing wrong with cashing in on his fame. Wapakman suck, but so what? When he had concerts, I saw nothing wrong with it. He's no Frank Sinatra, so what? People love him and they enjoyed listening to that "Laban mo, laban ko, laban nating lahat" thingy.

But here we are now. Manny Pacquiao is an elected senator and a retired boxer. More than that, he's a bible-thumping legislator who may very well have the capability to turn his personal beliefs into public policy. The days of me cheering and shouting profanities at the TV because of Pacquiao's fights are over.

When he decided to run against the Custodios and lost, I hoped his desire to go into politics would be quelled. But as we all know, that didn't happen. He decided to do what a normal trapo would do which is to move to an area with weaker political opponents and run for office there. He later on became Saranggani's congressman and this slowly changed my view of Pacquiao.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A Quick Message to Marcos Apologists

We provided him a bunch of stuff and yet we are made to believe we still owe him something. We gave him 24/7 security for decades, vehicles ranging from cars to planes to use, a beautiful palace and the financial support to make his plans come true a reality. And yet we still owe him? Forget the idea that Marcos is allegedly corrupt or that his plans allegedly sent us to a period of collapse. Ang kapal ng mukha ng ilan sa mga tao para sabihing i-boycott ang mga pinagawang yan ngayo't patuloy pa rin nating binabayaran ang marami sa mga yan.

Wala namang masamang suportahan sina Marcos per se. Pero kung itong mga basurang memes o mga post sa mga pekeng accounts ang ginagamit niyong sources, you are in no position to tell us to boycott anything since you're currently boycotting rational thinking.

Note: There is no evidence suggesting that Erwin Tulfo has anything to do with the Facebook page embedded in this post.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Ever-Present Bias in Philippine Politics

*** The following post may contain strong language ***

In deciding things, we always look to some things that would validate a choice; if I'm allergic to peanuts, then I won't touch the stuff. That's how decision-making works. It can be simple and objective like deciding what's the best way to get to work. Other times though, if and then statements are not as easily constructed.

In life, we have to face decisions where the choices aren't necessarily wrong or right and the factors are not necessarily tangible and/or quantifiable. It's like choosing Martin Nievera over Gary Valenciano. Both are undoubtedly talented and legends in their field. It's just that Martin Nievara is always playing and waking me up every weekend morning. And in subjective choices like these, we tap into our individual biases. Martin Nievera has always been better than Gary V. to me. Maybe it's because my parents love him and his voice always accompanies great early morning memories. It's not about talent; Martin is certainly incapable of dancing like Gary. It's just that, I like Martin better.

These biases, I accept them. I actually embrace them because overall, I see myself as a decent guy because/despite of them. And I'm sure most people embrace a few of their respective biases as well. I mean, if you attack Aldub, Lizquen or any other love team, their fans would blow their tops and won't hesitate defending their idols on social media with their names and pictures attached to their posts.

Now, what if the subjective question encompasses more than entertainment? What if the subjective question where we have to exercise our individual biases is something that would affect the state? Say, the elections?

Before proceeding, let's be clear that politics is a grey, if not subjective, area. If it weren't, then every state would be following the same political stance. Free market, command economies or whatever is not the one best way to get things done.

Now, what's ironic here is that the questions I put forth are examples of instances where bias is exercised. I'm sure that some reading this may simply say "hold onto your biases for just a day and vote for someone who will usher in a new era of prosperity for this nation" or whatever. But can we blame a desperate mother looking to feed her child who accepts money in exchange for her singular vote? It's easy to say she's a treacherous moron willing to sell out our nation. But isn't it us, the supposed intellectual elite, who are responsible for shaping the government that failed that woman?

Bias is hard to contain. Whenever people say mass media is biased, all I can say is "Duh!". Everybody is biased. Those who claim they are less biased have actually been proven to be the most biased of all (link).

So, what do we do now?

The urge to close this tab is most likely a manifestation of your bias against whatever I'm writing here. So why don't we just embrace it and actually start to scrutinize it?

Denial is a major speed bump in making sound choices in the elections. Let's accept the fact that some of us turn away whenever bad things about our candidates are discussed. The fear of being proven wrong or being humiliated can be immense. But in politics, sit's different. As I've said earlier that politics is a grey area where one plus one can equate to Lynyrd Skynyrd. The only time you can be proven wrong is when you lose your conviction through something like a complete absence of logic or whatever.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

On Kidapawan and Militant Rallies

It's been a firestorm of emotion ever since April Fool's Day. The Faculty Center of my Alma mater burned down prompting my college friends and acquaintances to start reminiscing and organizing support initiatives. With the emotion at a high, Kidapawan happened and my timeline was filled with unrivaled anger coming from even the most happy-go-lucky individuals.

With a re-energized Facebook friends list, political discussions ramped up. Kidapawan became the major focus of discussions and a lot was covered. Leftist friends started antagonizing pro-administation sentiments. Some showed appreciation for the men and women in uniform who were there at the location. And yet, a few remained silent - me included.

What happened in Kidapawan was truly sad and there's no denying that fact. With Mother Earth's unwavering, merciless wrath destroying their means of survival, people joined a rally to get reprieve. There, their source of help turned the other cheek and decided to continually ignore them. Until finally, their permit expired and they were left to either return to where they were in the first place or remain where they are and hope for some sort of relief. They chose the latter, relief never came and all hell broke loose.
I've touched on the paltry state of of our agricultural sector on my last post (link). With the continuing heat wave our country is experiencing, we may have reached the tipping point. And it is fair to say even if you are not in the fields that making ends meat through farming is getting harder and harder.

As I've mentioned, I've kept silent, relatively, regarding what happened. Hey, our president has basically done the same thing, right? Surely the leader of our nation knows the best course of action, right? In my silence, several issues have popped up. Several of them are regarded as facts we haven't changed at the moment while others are mere speculations. The torrent of information coming from the media is amazing and most of us are unable to keep up.

As of right now, we don't know what really went down. The PNP and the CHR have promised investigations in the coming days. But there have been reports of the police cleaning up evidence immediately after the confrontation. There was also a report that gun powder was detected on one of the protesters through a paraffin test. But then again, a paraffin test has its limitations. It can yield false positives especially if the one being tested has been handling tobacco or fertilizer, things a farmer would usually have (link). We have a bunch of politicians condemning what happened. We also have reports of the government's inability to release funds, food and supplies quickly enough to help the farmers cope with the heat. And, perhaps most prevalent recently, there have been reports that leftist organizations were the ones that urged the farmers to join the rally

But through all the things being reported, there is one thing that hasn't made its way to me through mass media: police procedures. I don't know, maybe I haven't been as focused on the news lately. But the lack of details on how things should be handled from my choice of news programs is troubling. And maybe a lot of my friends on Facebook are in the same boat because they're not talking about it.

Checking on the PNP Handbook (link), it's pretty clear that the main focus of police officers, or civil disturbance management team, is peace. There is a clear procedure to be followed and strict guidelines are put in place. The handbook also explicitly states that no firearm is to be brought within 100m of the rally. Police on the ground have said they gave warning shots. If they were following their handbook, would they even have that option? Plus, according to the handbook, warning shots are prohibited during police operations. TV5's Ed Lingao did a great job summarizing this in a Facebook post (link).

I once said in the past that "rules are not meant to be followed, they should be justified (link)". So let's justify this rule. Let's assume that the activists were the ones that attacked first and the police see their colleagues getting attacked by rocks and sticks. Is it justifiable for them to break the rule and use guns? Well, they are expected to be better-trained and physically fit. And the police are armed with better equipment. But what if the protesters had guns? I mean, one police allegedly sustained a bullet wound to the leg. Does that justify the usage of firearms? Sure! But that doesn't justify the continued "warning" shots seen on videos. And then again, those guns shouldn't have been there in the first place which, by the way, I think is a troublesome rule but a rule nonetheless. And a rule that, had been followed, could have prevented deaths. And it's also a rule that's still not being followed.
Through all this, I'm not discounting the heroism of our police officers. Most of them risk with some even losing their lives to protect our freedoms. But three people died and countless were injured on both sides. And even then, the DILG did not wait for any form of investigation to reward our men.

The issue of politics, whether you're a leftist or not, should take a backseat. The lack of professionalism being displayed by the government is worrisome. The bureaucracy's lack of effective and efficient service provision led to the farmer's desperation. I'm not usually one to prejudge prior to any investigation. But the police lacked the professionalism to follow their own rules. And the president remaining silent through all this is... well... you know.

Militant rallies happen all the time. Them urging the poor to join them is akin to your usual political candidates urging people to vote for them using their deep pockets and nonsensical jingles. It's dirty. But it is what it is. And just like those politicians, these leftists deserve the same professional, impartial and impersonal government whenever they come in contact with it. And those unknowing farmers certainly deserve that sort of governance as well.

This government that once said that it is not responsible for the seeking of justice for the Mendiola Massacre (link) is once again showing a complete lack of professionalism. This nation deserves better.


They put food on our tables. It's our turn to put food on theirs.Tulong Kabataan is now accepting donations for our fellow Mindanao Farmers. Please refer to the poster for details.#BIGAShindiBALA
Posted by KABATAAN PARTYLIST on Tuesday, 5 April 2016


A very important message from Dr. John Paul Vergara and the Ateneo University Press: The Ateneo de Manila University...
Posted by Rica Bolipata Santos on Tuesday, 5 April 2016

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Startup Hopes to Open Up Agricultural Investments

The Philippines is a rich, fertile country with long winding rivers and multiple lakes. With these topographical characteristics, it would be easy to think that the country's agricultural sector is a major economic driving force. But unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Philippine agricultural sector has lagged behind its neighboring competition. With a whole host of issues like corruption, as exemplified by the Coco Levy Fund, infrastructure problems like irrigation and farm-to-market-road problems and lack of capital, the agricultural sector can be considered one of the most inefficient sectors of our economy. According to a paper by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (link), 57% of families whose head works in agriculture live in poverty. A good chunk of the workers in the sector don't have access to electricity and potable water which are essential in productivity. Current conditions and a lack of effective leadership has hindered in the development of one of the sector.

With the realities that are plaguing the sector, a startup company by the name of Cropital (link) has sprouted to help farmers gain capital as well as to give potential investors a medium to the sector.

Cropital is a company headed by three young entrepreneurs looking to provide a new market to potential investors. The capital is drawn from people who invest through the website. Each investor is free to choose the specific farm they wish to invest in. Cropital keeps 10% of the farms' profits, investors keep 20%. and the farmers keep 70%. These are desirable numbers for the farmers if you compare it to loan sharks who charge upwards of 40% interest even if the farmers don't turn a profit. It is also a decent alternative to placing their land on collateral. Ultimately, the farmers win because they are given another option to take their business to another level.

Browsing through their website, we will see a focus on high value crops and an absence of rice farms. The long-term crop currently available is napier which is used for renewable energy while short-term crops include beans, bitter melon (ampalaya), tomatoes, cabbages and pechay. As of writing, all farms are fully funded. But liking their Facebook page (link) would keep you up-to-date with more farms in need of funding.

As with other investments, there are risks to be considered. This has prompted the company to find ways to mitigate them. The company has partners with the local governments to help in interviewing and ultimately determining suitable farming partners. Aside from that, the capital to be raised also includes crop insurance from the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation. Pests are also mitigated as farmers are aided by agriculturists. It seems the main risk investors are to look out for is the market. Because even though the company has their own buyers and even if they cluster up the farms to improve market strength, the market is still a volatile entity. But at the same time, all forms of investment have to deal with market volatility from time to time.

I don't usually publish somewhat promotional posts for my blog. But in this case, I'm not simply promoting a company. I am promoting an approach to farming that should be considered.

Our farms have usually been operated by single proprietors who have to find ways to gain capital to be efficient or, at the very least, operational. With the level of bank-ability of the small farmers that comprise a significant amount of the sector, we have struggled to produce globally competitive goods from the sector. Mar Roxas once alluded to the problem and called for consolidation to improve productivity through economies of scale. But this may ultimately be disastrous to the farmers who are, more likely than not, ill-educated. Hopefully, with a system similar to that of Cropital, farms would have the resources to get with the times and be efficient and self-sustaining. Consolidation or the hacienda system may prove productive with certain crops. But with the help of a profit-driven entity willing to accept the limitations of the farmers/partners' resources, a shift to different methods or even higher value crops prompted by an informed company should lead to productivity as well.

Capital is a major problem for small farmers. And start-ups like Cropital should help with that aspect of the industry.

With the private sector slowly finding effective ways to fund the industry, it's time for the government to put down effective capital outlays to help our farmers. They continue to call for irrigation and farm-to-market roads. Such requirements may only be fulfilled effectively and efficiently by an accountable bureaucracy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Reaction to 2nd Philippine Presidential Debate in Cebu

After a long delay, the anticipated 2nd Presidential Debate featuring the four leading contenders for the nation's highest post got underway. It definitely got off to a rocky start. But it played in my favor because I just got home when it started.

There are definitely plenty of things to talk about. But here are a few things that piqued my interest:

- Why is the Comelec not allowing notes? What's wrong with notes? What's wrong with a presidential aspirant collecting himself and gathering information that would help him convey his plans better? I know people have this high regard for leaders who can talk without scripts. But I'd rather have one who actually spent resources planning instead of just shooting from the hip. Extemporaneous speakers are impressive in their own right. But presidents are afforded multiple staff members with their own respective expertise, a multitude of data sources and limited attention. By preventing our candidates from tapping into their own resources to answer questions, Comelec is doing a disservice because they are preventing the candidates from laying out their plans the best way they could thus preventing the electorate from properly formulating a strong opinion of their potential leaders. Binay wanting to use prepared documents and "kodigos" should not be held against him.

Hopefully the Comelec revisits this rule. Rules are not meant to be followed. Rules are meant to be justified or otherwise abolished. And this rule they have during these debates needs to be canned.

- Binay's attack on the government's underspending and his explanation of his plan to exempt the poor from income tax lacks depth. His attack on underspending lacked its cause. The main reason for the large surplus we have in our budget is the agencies' inability to map out and implement plans and projects. This may be attributed to a more stringent process in releasing budget as well as gross incompetence on the part of our bureaucrats. Instead of slinging mud to the wall and hoping it sticks, Binay could have provided a clear argument for the failure the ruling party.

As for his plan to exempt the poor from taxes, his explanation just opened up more questions. He mentioned our inability to implement our import/export taxation. He cited this as an example on how we can balance out the lost revenue his tax policy would incur. But it just opens up the question on how he plans to improve tariff collection.What does he think of the port booking system that truckers, brokers and freight forwarders are rallying about? Aside from improving freight flow, it would definitely help in accounting for every truck and cargo that leaves the port. But is it worth the supposedly exorbitant fees? How about smugglers that use random beaches? How do we get them to pay tariff? Who is he assigning as BOC chief? 

He mentions that the increased purchasing power of the exemption would result in higher VAT collection. But of the poor, how many are patrons of businesses that pay the right amount of taxes? It also opens up new questions. This time it's in sales tax acquisition.

I liken Binay's call to exempt the poor from income taxes to a wrestler mentioning the town in which he is performing in a good light. He's merely trying to get a positive reaction. The sad thing is most of us bit and cheered for him even though it's so easy to see right through him.

- I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state, or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the Armed Forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

How can we trust someone who took the above oath to be the commander-in-chief of our military? The fact that Grace Poe was allowed to run by the Supreme Court doesn't change the fact that she consciously made an effort to give herself an option to side with the US in the event of a war between our nations. To me, there's nothing wrong for an ordinary, private individual to go for that option. But I can't stand to have a president that deliberately sold her loyalty to another state for her personal comfort.

When I first read the oath in Ireneo Salazar's blog post (link) and saw it word per word on a U.S. government's website (link) , I said to myself "Grace Poe can't win". Binay had the opportunity to hammer in my sentiments. But he disappointed me, as usual.

- Duterte had a point during on the question of climate change and environmentalism. Adhering to the desires of hardcore environmentalists of banning coal plants is not in the best interest of our country. Think of it this way, by going for full renewable energy, the effect on the environment would be minuscule compared to the cost we would incur. According to WESM(link), Coal and Natural Gas power plants are our main power producers. These two are also the types of plants that pollute the most. By taking away these plants, the cost of electricity would skyrocket since by simply looking at WESM, we can see the spot prices in the electricity market of solar and wind power are considerably higher than electricity made by coal and natural gas. 

Let's say we actually sacrifice our economy to switch to renewable energy. Is it worth it? Would the improvement in climate offset the economic sacrifice we would incur? But hey, maybe jobs created by renewable power industries would help our economy. But the problem is that other countries posses the comparative advantage in that industry. Japan and the U.S. have the technology. What we have is the manpower. But that industry is capital-intensive. This means that the main beneficiaries of focusing on renewable energy would be the owners of the capital i.e. foreign investors or the people like the Levistes of Solar Philippines.

I'm not belittling the issue of climate change or anything. But it's not our issue to handle hands-on even though we are one of the most affected. We can make a difference as a nation by implementing sound strategies like protecting our forests and stopping "pagkakaingins". We can make sure that power plants adhere to cleaner versions of themselves like clean coal technologies. But crafting back-breaking policies solely because of the environment - like converting jeepneys so they conform to Euro 4 - is ridiculous.  

 - During the talk regarding renewable energy and climate change, Duterte caught my attention when he mentioned monopolies as the reason for the high power rates. The question of monopolies is not restricted to the power industry. Monopolies are also springing up more frequently especially with the administration's go-to-move when it comes to infrastructure development - PPP's.

The word monopoly has this negative connotation. But it is needed in technological advancements in market-driven economies. Pharmaceutical advancements are fostered thanks to the incentive of guaranteed monopolies. It is a major incentive for the private sector. But in certain industries, monopolies are just deterrents to economic advancement.

Take for example the power industry. The competition in the spot market ensures at least some semblance of efficiency since different power plants strive to produce power in the most efficient way so they can beat their competition. But in distribution, no such incentive to improve efficiency exists because Meralco or other coops have monopolies. There's no need to improve wires or whatever they use. There's no reason to improve personnel management. They have no competitions to push them.

Back to PPP's, the administration that Mar Roxas loves so much allows monopolies to exist freely. From expressways to railways to utilities to hospitals, this Mar Roxas-endorsed style of governance lets go of responsibilities because it itself cannot fulfill them due to ineffectiveness, inefficiency, lack of accountability and lack of political will to fix itself. Mar Roxas' beloved administration's economics leaves crucial services and industries to the private sector to handle. Sure, the private sector may seem efficient to a lot of people. But its irreverence to positive externalities of their operation and their profit-driven management inflates costs which makes the economy inefficient. 

PPP's are not always bad. Assuming the government officials are clean and not complete idiots, building the infrastructure goes through a bidding system which provides competition. This should result in a cost-effective build. Privatizing the SSS, GSIS and Pag-Ibig may not be such bad ideas since financial institutions' main goal is profit regardless of who handles them. But once we allow the private sector to take hold of other government responsibilities like when they operate transportation or healthcare, we unknowingly get screwed.

When the second part of Marichu Villanueva's question was deliberately ignored by Roxas, it just got me asking how much he really believes in his party's administration and how much of its style he would adopt. I wonder what he thinks of the new IRR on the BOT law.

- Miriam needs to quit. She's not performing well in the surveys thanks to her illness. If she really believes she knows what's best for the country, she should pass the information to someone in her party who can win and who would take her as a consultant. Because as of the moment, the supposedly brilliant ideas she has in her mind is going to waste because of her inability to campaign and share her plans.

- I've attacked Duterte in my last post (link). And with how he adjusted into what seemed like a more compassionate version of himself who actually gave a bit of crap, it showed what some of us already knew: he's just like the usual trapo spouting out any generic BS he can spout to gain the votes of anyone who cared to listen.

Duterte is not the genuine, no-nonsense guy he and his supporters are selling. But does that matter? If you genuinely believe in Federalism, increased police wages, special courts to speed up the justice system, the death penalty or bilateral talks with China, then I guess he's the man for you. But to vote for him based solely on his promise he can end crime in 6 months is misguided. A benevolent dictator can end criminality in 6 months. A ruthless depot can do the same. Even an effective republic like the one in Iceland (link) can do it. Sometimes how you will do things is more important than what you will do. And his desire to get killed if he doesn't deliver doesn't cushion the blow of any potential failings his administration would have. Because to be frank, his life is not worth 6 months of this nation's time.

- Let's legalize divorce. If it's such a sin, let the church handle it. Priests, pastors, imams and other religious leaders spend a considerable amount of time studying their holy books. I'm sure they can handle their flock.

My reasoning for supporting a divorce bill is similar to my support of same sex marriage (link).  There's no point in having the government dictate what's a sin and what's not.

For the people saying that the family is the basic foundation of society, come on. Do you really want the national government to micro-manage everything and mess with your family life. Sobrang spoon-feeding naman yun.

- Grace Poe is not ready to be president. Duterte threw a screwball at her with that question in the individual Q&A round. When she failed to mention talking with the US in her answer when asked what she would do in the event of a Chinese attack, it should have brought her down. She wasted around twenty seconds in saying she would wake up or some other trivial stuff. As I've mentioned before she shouldn't be our president. That one question, as well as several things she tends to forget like the fact she is the vice-chair of the agricultural committee that handled the Coco Levy Fund, proved she can't be our president.

- Grace Poe had a point when she said the big fish of the Liberal Party seem to be exempted from accountability.Aside from that, other people close to the president seem to be exempted as well. There's Abaya who she cited, Jericho Petilla who almost caused a Luzon-wide power crisis during his term as DOE head, Butch Abad who devised the PDAF/DAP fiasco, Francis Tolentino whose incompetence led to the surrender of some of the MMDA's powers to the Highway Patrol Group, MIAA GM Honrado who oversaw the airport during both the laglag bala scam as well as the worst airport in the world year and a whole host of other people I may be forgetting.

- TV5 really did a better job than I expected. The questions were hard-hitting and whenever Ms. Valdez felt like the discussion was not answering the question, she didn't hesitate in dictating the tempo of the debate. The commercials were also reasonable. And the fact that they sold their coverage to other broadcast groups really put them in a positive light for me because information that would affect how the electorate would vote should not be monopolized. The mudslinging was prevalent. But it did not lower the standard of discussion as expected. The only thing I can really say as a major booboo for them is their misunderstanding with Binay's camp. But compared to GMA, their coverage was so much better.


Now, if you ask me who won the debate, I'd answer Roxas. He made sure to highlight his party's strengths and avoided acknowledging their particular weakness. He made sure to remind his party is not perfect and he effectively staved off attacks sent his way... well... at least compared to Binay and Poe. Duterte is a close second because I felt he was disengaged towards the candidates not named Roxas. But in any case, nobody really stood out for me.

Now, if you ask me who I'd vote for, I'd answer say... does it really matter?


Sunday, March 13, 2016

Quick Reaction to Rodrigo Duterte's Debacle in UPLB Q&A

The following is a quick reaction straight from my Facebook Profile. Please excuse the usage of Filipino as I feel English won't be able to capture the emotion of the post.

Kahit sino pang kandidato yan, didikdikin yan. Mas madali pa nga madalas tinatanong sa mga kandidatong yan kesa sa mga nagdedebate sa klase e. At hindi ito ginagawa ng mga estudyante para mag mayabang at ipakitang matalino sila. Ginagawa ito para mas mapalalim ang usapan. Sinasabi galit daw tayo sa trapong pasayaw-sayaw lang pag kampanya. O ayan na... ginigisa. Sabay sasabihin walang modo?

Hindi ko sinasabing may point yung nagtanong kay Duterte. Pero oras na magbulag-bulagan tayo sa kahibangan ng mga kandidato at magpokus sa kumukutya sa kanya... damn.

Yung tinanong kay Duterte e parang tungkol sa implementation ng kanyang anti-criminal shits. Malabo ang pagkakatanong. Pero hindi naman humngi ng clarification si Duterte e. Hinayaan ni Duterte na hindi sila magkaintindihan. Ang sagot niya "bomba na lang" na parang ulyaning gusto na lang tapusin ang usapan. Yung nagtanong nakalimutan na ang normal ethics na ineexpect ng lipunan kasi mabigat yung issue sa kanya e. Parang tanga ang pagkakatanong. Pero just like anybody else, he deserves more than a dismissive "bomba na lang" as an answer.

Duterte's running for a position that has the most authority to affect the lives of everyone in our state. Kung merong walang modo dito, si Duterte yun. He's belittling the importance of this election by making it seem like he's not even trying.

It's not who you vote for that determines if you voted wisely. It's how you came to the conclusion that that person is who's best for our nation that counts. Nakakarumi na yung mga taong kulang na lang e gawing Diyos ang mga kandidato nila at mag-alay ng birhen. E kung mag-inom na lang tayo sa halip sa sumamba diyan edi sana matamis.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Same-Sex Marriage and Our Approach to the Issue

Well, Manny Paquiao dropped a bombshell on us: 

Of course, this video was cut. A lot of his supporters are actually encouraging people to look for the full video as the one being circulated by the media doesn't fully capture his stance. So okay, here's the "full, raw, uncut" video they are encouraging us to watch:

Manny P.
Eto ang tunay na clip! Gago din ang media eh!!!Panoorin nyu bago nyu ibash si Manny PacquiaoShare nyu nadin!#KupalLord#KupalCares#SiKupalAngMayAlamCTTO
Posted by Kupal Lord on Thursday, 18 February 2016

There you have it. Pacquiao may think that people engaging in same-sex relations are worst than animals. But at least, he's not condemning them. He's just condemning the practice of same-sex marriage. Those last few seconds taken away by major media outlets really saved Manny for me. I mean without those few seconds, I would have thought he is a bigot or whatever word people are using nowadays (sarcasm?).

But hey, you can interpret his words any way you want. You may interpret it as him calling for Martians to attack and enslave our children if you want. But there is one thing that we must keep in mind when watching this interview: Manny Pacquiao is running for public office.

By filing his Certificate of Candidacy, Manny announced that he is ready to represent every individual in our nation regardless of race, religion, social standing or whatever. Well, that's what I hope. That's the kind of professionalism I hope from anybody running for public office. But sadly, professionalism is not really a word that people associate with our politics.

Manny Pacquiao gave us his religious view. And he also pointed to it as his reason for being against same-sex marriage. Many politicians do it. Going to the bible for guidance is not a bad thing. But if you're in a position to change the lives of millions of people of differing world views and different holy books, maybe it's time we slide that bible back in its drawer.

The separation of church and state has been discussed in this blog before. I've long discussed my belief that the state should not concern itself with religion. You see, government is not doing God any favors by following His teachings in crafting laws. We've criminalized adultery and yet people still do it. The reasoning behind criminalizing adultery is not necessarily because it is "evil". It is criminalized because the legal spouse and children are being put in disadvantageous situations by the practice. This line of reasoning should be at the forefront when discussing policies. The state was not created to further the advances of a particular religion. It was created to improve the physical state of living of all of its constituents regardless of their personal beliefs. Manny Pacquiao and other politicians fail to realize and practice the separation of their religious views and their political responsibilities.

But aside from that particular lack of realization, another observable political feature showing itself in the issue is our inability to digest ideas solely on their merit. When Vice Ganda voiced his displeasure with Manny's sentiments, he was attacked vigorously by social media. People are saying he's a hypocrite for negatively reacting to Manny's sentiments when he himself profits from ridiculing others. Some people on the other hand went quickly to the defense of Pacquiao because of the pride he has brought to the nation. With Pacquiao being a national treasure, they encouraged people to give the legendary pugilist some slack. But the problem here is that this issue is not about Pacquiao or Ganda or Abunda or anybody else.

Pacquiao exercised his right to free speech and there is nothing wrong with that. We shouldn't be scrutinizing him. We should be scrutinizing the idea that we are okay with denying same-sex couples the right to adoption, the tax right-offs, inheritance and other rights being enjoyed by heterosexual couples just on account of their sex. Mon Tulfo was quick to Pacquiao's defense and explained he just exercised his right to free speech and went on a little homophobic tirade of his own. The problem is we forget that with our right to voice our opinions, others also have the right to scrutinize those said opinions. Vice Ganda, regardless of his past, has the right to react to Manny's views. And the validity of Ganda's sentiments should not be tied down to his past.

With that said, this issue has brought out several of the traits of Philippine Politics.We certainly don't have the perfect political environment for instilling progress on all fronts. But it is time we change that. We are far removed from the colonization of other nations. We have long passed the times of dictatorship. It's time we start getting the most of our democracy through intellectual and logical approaches to current issues.

We are now at a point where we should ask ourselves several key question concerning same-sex marriage: Are we okay with people having the gall to liken our fellowman to animals just on account of who they choose to love? Are we okay with denying rights on account of their preferred sexual partners? Are we okay with distinguished people marginalizing the LGBT since they have "gay friends"? Are we okay with individual beliefs stopping the happiness of millions? Should we limit the other people's paths to providence and happiness by our own individual beliefs?

It's not that we have a, as Mon Tulfo put it, primitive society. It's just that we fail to ask the questions that would determine if we are ready for same-sex marriage.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Major Problem: Unopposed Candidates

As the 2016 election draws near, the question of who to vote for is slowly creeping into the minds of our people. In my family, my mother seems dead set on foregoing her right to vote for anybody in the presidential and vice-presidential race. My brother and sister-in-law seem to have set their sights on Robredo as their vice president. I, on the other hand, still don't know who I will vote for but am completely aware on who not to support. The influx of candidates looking to be elected for the top posts has definitely made choosing a difficult endeavor. But if choosing through a multitude of names seems problematic, can we imagine having no choice when it comes to our leaders? Well, a few of our countrymen have this problem and there seems to be no solution in sight.

By the way, the problem with the high number of candidates with very similar platforms has been discussed in many shows and may become a subject of a future post here in my blog.

As for now, let's focus on how, in some places, we citizens are given no choice. and produced an awesome picture of how many unopposed candidates are running for major provincial posts here.

ABS-CBN News also produced a report on the matter.  

Clearly, the problem is a recurring theme in our elections.With the high number of political families controlling their own respective little kingdoms, it would be a surprise if all our LGU's had all its positions contested by at least two individuals. But what makes a lack of opposition in elections such a problem?

If you've managed to stumble upon a news segment discussing the issue, an analyst would always say that the strength of the democracy lies in the choices the citizens are given. It seems like an ambiguous statement with no real meaning sometimes. But a person who studied these kinds of stuff for the better part of their adult lives can't possibly be blurting out generic gibberish on national TV, right?

To me, democracy is a system of controlled compromise whose end game is to pass policies that would lead to the improvement of its constituent's lives. I've said before that voting should be based on ideals. Since no candidate truly captures our personal preference, we compromise and should vote for the persons who have the platforms that resemble our ideals the closest.

In the absence of electoral opposition, we as citizens concede our voices when it comes to our leader and we compromise uncontrollably to whatever agenda the elected official has. Instead of the leader adjusting to the ideals and needs of the people, the people adjust their needs and ideals to that of the leader. Some people call it a dictatorship or even despotism. I wouldn't go that far since the officials still have to abide by a constitution approved by the people. But nonetheless, it still leaves the people, the ones for which the government was designed, somewhat voiceless.

But aren't the people voiceless regardless of the number of candidates running? Well, let's look at Duterte who, along with a few other people, is running for the presidency. He once expressed his support for same-sex marriage in 2015 in Vice Ganda's show. Here's a video of him addressing the matter:

He expressed these sentiments back in 2015. I was genuinely surprised when he said same-sex marriage was good. I hate the fact that our government is tied down to principles espoused by the Christian church. It was a refreshing and candid answer. It was clear that he supported it then.

But things change. In late January, the Davao mayor changed his tone. Nowadays, he supports gays but won't push for same sex marriage. This is not a surprise since he has officially confirmed his desire to be president since the release of the video. Aside from that, there is also the statistical fact that 70% of Filipinos oppose same-sex marriage. I guess same-sex marriage is not good enough for us to revisit our constitution.

Duterte needed to change his tone and his platform to be able to win this election. He had to compromise to the electorate's ideals. He doesn't have the luxury that Imee Marcos has in Ilocos who only needs to vote for herself to win the post. Instead for calling for the changing of the constitution to conform with the needs of our LGBT brethren, he chose to compromise with the people's ideals and stick to the status quo.

It sucks to be part of the 30% in this issue. But at least, I can rest assured that the country is being shaped by its citizenry and not some person who is given authority just because nobody else can compete. I mean, I can still assess the field and vote for the presidential aspirant who most likely will take same-sex marriage seriously. Unlike the people of Ilocos Norte who have no choice but to accept Imee Marcos and whatever projects she has in store.

Diversity is important in a democracy. Though things get watered down sometimes, the choices the people are given are the ones that define our nation's present and the ones that will shape our future.

Maybe it's time to get an anti-dynasty law. Maybe it's time to make running for positions cheaper. Maybe gerrymandering is an issue we need to address. I'm not really sure about the solution to the problem of lack of opposition in some areas. But I'm definitely sure it's time we start addressing it.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Politics and Speaking Ill of the Dead

As Filipinos, we grew up doing or not doing certain things whenever certain situations come up. We don't sweep the floor at night. We have our girls jump from the third step of a staircase during their first menstrual cycle. Following certain traditions or customs doesn't really need the backing of logic. I mean, what do we have to lose by following these simple things? What do we have to lose whenever we say "tabi-tabi po" while we walk around an old tree? What do we have to lose whenever we grab our babies and pass them above the coffin in a wake? These things are simple. They give people assurance in some weird way and at the same time, it shows our culture and our history.

But sometimes, doing what is expected/accepted by society can bring about negative effects. During the New Year, for example, we are expected to spend thousands of pesos on firecrackers that can end up hurting us. Just like the social norms stated above, there's no logic behind it. But it's our culture. It somehow drives away evil spirits. And who am I to say how people should spend their hard-earned money? People follow this particular tradition or act because there is a trade-off. Besides driving away evil spirits, exploding triangles and beautiful lights make people happy. And the pollution and health effects are taken into consideration by the government when they decided to legalize the practice and set standards on the products... well that's what I hope.

Existing social norms are either inconsequential to the nation or, just like the case of using firecrackers, regulated/tolerated only to a certain extent. Note: These are my own personal classifications.

Now, the aforementioned classifications may seem crude. But social norms need to be classified by society and even individuals correctly to determine the things we should do away with entirely, the things we embrace and the things we control.

Looking at our society and individuals I come in contact with, one particular social norm is fully embraced without us realizing our accepting nature towards it and its effects on a national level. If you haven't read the title of this post, I'm talking about not speaking ill of the dead.

I'm confident most of us here were taught never to speak ill of the dead. We are told to keep our mouths shut when our abusive drunk uncle or perverted cousin die. It doesn't matter how they lived their lives. We should not judge them for they don't have the means to defend themselves.We should just let God do the judging. Plus, there's no point in upseting the loved ones. What do we have to lose when we keep our mouths shut when that person dies? Nothing right?

But what if the person who died was a government official instead of a random cousin and was corrupt instead of being perverted? What do we have to lose when we keep our mouths shut? Potentially, a lot.

A few days ago, ex-LTO chief Virginia Torres died. She was the LTO chief who got canned because she was the subject of a viral video showing her gambling in a casino. Personally, I had no problem with her gambling as long as it's her own money. But hey, memorandum circulars have to be followed even if they seem hypocritical.

Now, the fact that Torres already got fired already closes that case for me. But aside from that, another issue lingers over her name.

Torres is also embroiled in a controversy involving sugar smuggling. She allegedly used her contacts and dropped President Aquino's name in an attempt to get a shipment of smuggled sugar released so the money to be earned from the sales could be used for the upcoming elections. Unfortunately for her, she left empty-handed.

The fact that she left empty-handed is why keeping my mouth shut is the best course of action. What's the point of speaking? If we somehow prove she did use the president's name and tried to get smuggled sugar out of the BoC, that would only destroy her name and it would've cost us a ton of money. Clearly, shutting up and refraining from calling her something bad is for the best.

Unfortunately, sometimes officials don't get away empty-handed.

I'm sure we all know about Ferdinand Marcos so I won't go into detail with him. He is one of the few deceased politicians we never fail to talk about. He is either loved or despised. Cases are ongoing to retrieve the stuff he supposedly stole from the Filipino people. Sure, the case may be moving at a snail's pace. But at least, it's moving which is the most we can expect from our futile justice system.

But aside from Marcos, other individuals who have passed had their cases diluted if not completely forgotten. One such individual is Angelo Reyes. Angelo Reyes killed himself in front of his parents' grave just as the "pabaon" generals case went full swing. At first, people were ready to scrutinize Reyes of his supposed involvement in the scam. Jinggoy and Miriam were really grilling him hard. But by the time he died, people were singing his praises. He was praised to the point that he was buried in Libingan ng mga Bayani with full military honors

I'm not saying that Angelo Reyes was a scumbag who stole from us. I mean, the case did get dismissed by 2013. But our initial suspicion was subdued by his death. It's like we suspended our critical thinking and quickly accepted him as a great man when he died and labeled a potentially corrupt individual a hero by burying him in Libingan ng mga Bayani. In doing that, we quickly forgot that this guy could've walked away with millions of pesos. He died an innocent man. But that doesn''t mean we should quickly call him a hero and allow him to rest for all eternity in our heroes' cemetery considering what was happening at the time.

Shutting up about the dead's faults is one that needs a little more thinking than most. People tend to dismiss the act as inconsequential and critical thinking needs not be spared. But in the case of important people like public officials who are held in high esteem, social norms are no longer that weird or proper thing to which we need to adhere. It can become a practice of critical thinking.

Let's let Virgie Torres rest for now... at least until someone finds something connecting her to some sort of graft or corruption. And at the same time, let's not be so quick to let the dead get away with things they may have done when they were living like allowing Marcos to be buried in the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Government officials should be tied down to accountability even after the Grim Reaper shows itself through the door. We stand to lose everything if we let mortality get in the way of accountability.